Four square evokes memories

Michael Waugh. Photo: contributed.

Stefan Bradley

The latest single from Michael Waugh takes its listeners back to the school yard, when the most important thing to you wasn’t paying bills, but who was top dog at recess.

Michael Waugh was born in Maffra and went to school there, and now works as a drama teacher in Melbourne, so he’s well-equipped to write a song about school.

Mr Waugh has told stories about Sale, Heyfield, Seaspray and Maffra through his music, and now the songwriter behind ‘Heyfield Girl’ is capturing the ego rush that comes from winning a game against classmates in his new single ‘Four Square’, from last year’s album The Cast.

Mr Waugh has filled the lyrics with many callbacks to Australian school culture. Sausage rolls and energy drinks were the standard diet for many students studying their ATAR.

Once the school bell rang, the one thing to look forward to was a game of Four Square.

The guitars are typical Australian rock, and will be familiar to fans of Powderfinger, Cold Chisel, INXS, to name a few.

The simple, yet catchy composition allows Mr Waugh’s reflective words to tell the story clearly, and while he speaks softly each verse, the chorus sees a bigger sound as he describes dominating the four square “d-d-d-d-down there”.

According to Waugh: “I balance music with teaching. I love both jobs – I am so fortunate to work for a great school that supports my art. ‘Four Square’ is written for those wonderful, loud, energetic, funny, furious, fantastic kids that I teach – and it’s about their incredible capacity to keep bouncing. More than ever, through lockdown, they’ve taught me about resilience.”

“For years I’ve watched fiercely fought battles played out in the school yards – mostly boy v. tennis ball. For those of you who don’t know, four square (sometimes referred to as down ball or handball) is played in painted or chalk drawn quadrants, four boys bouncing tennis balls at each other, whacking it with their hands, and fighting for the place of ‘King’ position on the court.”

“For many of the boys that I teach, it’s been the highlight of their day to get out with their mates and take their frustrations out on a tennis ball, slapping it as hard as they can, nearly breaking themselves and each other with the viciousness of their game. As a teacher, I spend a lot of time trying to see the world through a kid’s eyes – I think that as educators we need to be empathetic with what young people are going through if we have any hope of helping or guiding them.”

“So, this is a song for the boys I teach, for the pressures that they go through, and for their amazing capacity to bounce.”

Many of Mr Waugh’s students are big fans of his music and cheered him on at the Golden Guitar awards, where he won ‘Heritage Song of the Year’ for the title-track off his fourth-studio album Dirty River. While Mr Waugh was unable to attend the awards ceremony due to COVID, he was delighted to take home his first Golden Guitar win.

“We were stuck in isolation in Bundaberg instead of being at the biggest party of my life,” Waugh said.

“We didn’t have a red carpet, but there was a brown rug. So, my partner and I put on the suits that we had for the occasion and took photos of our ‘brown rug’ event… it wasn’t quite a red carpet, but it was as close as COVID allowed us.”

Michael Waugh’s new single ‘Four Square’ is out now, and appears on his album The Cast, released last year. He performed at The Wedge last month.

Artwork for Michael Waugh’s new single, ‘Four Square’.